Photography Workflow Data Backup – Feed the Drobo
Just over 2 years ago I added a Drobo to our wedding photography workflow and backup strategy. (Read the original writeup here). I just fed it another pair of 1 terabyte hard drive this month and figured it would make a good time to share a review of its performance over the last 2 years of photography work and backup duty.
I bought the Drobo USB model when I was running all my edit work off my MacBook Pro laptop. The MB Pro’s 320gb internal drive filled up really fast with shoots, edits, designs and my music collection. Last fall we added a Mac Pro tower to the home office to handle heavy lifting and upgraded storage needs. (And there was much rejoicing!)
After the Mac Pro addition the Drobo now handles backups of Lightroom catalogs, raw and JPG image backups, designs. Older catalogs from 2004-2008 stay archived on the Drobo for infrequent reference and finding samples from specific churches or reception venues.
“Live Work” catalogs of 2009-2011 work are backed up every few hours with Apple’s Time Machine and synchronized to a Drobo backup weekly using ChronoSync as well as synchronized between the Mac Pro and MacBook Pro nightly. (Great to have your most recent edits, designs, and full offline previews on the laptop ready to go.)
I haven’t used any other RAID systems yet to compare one setup against the Drobo’s way of doing things, but am interested to hear comparisons in the comments.
Simple. Plug it in, put in hard drives, go to town. Mismatch drive sizes and it figures out how to span the data. I started with a pair 0f 500gb drives, added 2 more 1TB drives, and now have all 4 bays full of 1TB drives. Rather effortless setup, USB connection (Firewire, gigabit ethernet and more options on newer versions).
All in one box. When I switched to Macs I started with laptops for Sara and me. I had a little city being built on my desk from the mismatched external drives I used to manage, backup, and store images. It was nice to keep the other externals as infrequent use backups or to move large folders of wedding edits between computers.
Easy to upgrade. I’m writing this while the Drobo does its work spreading data out to the new 1TB drive I just added. (Update: adding a 1TB drive took about 20 hours for the Drobo to reallocate data across all the drives. You can still access the data once a new drive is added, but don’t shut it down!)
I realized quickly the performance bottleneck editing a few thousand NEF / camera raw files in Lightroom from an external USB drive. None of my other external drives provided much more speed, this was a problem of needing faster, larger internal storage.
On the upside, in the winter my laptop and the Drobo could heat my office while processing these edits. There are newer, faster versions available since the introductory USB model, and I now run my edit & design work off the Mac Pro’s internal drives at a much faster pace. This solved that bottleneck.
Paranoia of a proprietary RAID format. This one still gets me. I took one of the smaller 500GB drives out to add the 1TB upgrade and when I put the Drobo-fied drive in the Mac Pro it wasn’t recognizable and would need to be formatted (read: erased) to be used in the Mac Pro. While the Drobo tells you when a drive is getting full and (haven’t tested) if one fails, it doesn’t say much of what happens when the box’s internal hardware wears out. I suppose get a new Drobo? I’m still a bit leery of this one.
Hot & bothered. It gets pretty loud when running lots of editing and transfers. I have it mounted under my desk to save some space and reduce the noise. Other reviews have mentioned this too. It’s only as loud as the hard drives spinning when it isn’t under much use, but in editing or moving large amounts of data the fan kicks up pretty high. Keeps my legs & toes warm in the winter. It seems to be loudest when compared against the MacBook Pro on the desk and the Mac Pro (near silent!) also on or under the desk. If it’s in a noisy room it’s no problem.
Here’s a couple of screen shots of the backup in progress.
Recommendation: Yes. Keep it simple.
Best for: Data backup, Time Machine, infrequently used / archived files.
If you want to give a Drobo a try and appreciated our real life workflow review, we’d love it if you got one through us here, it helps spoil the kids, I mean support our growing family.
- Eric B